Royal Geographical Society

For our second stop of the day, we popped into the Royal Geographical Society. I didn’t really know what to expect when Dr. Welsh told us we would be visiting their archives, but I really enjoyed the visit and saw some amazing artifacts!

In all honesty, I wasn’t really sure what the Royal Geographical Society was. But, the archivist/librarian did an excellent job describing the history and foundation of the RGS. It was founded in 1830, by a group of men who had previously formed a dinner club around the topic of travel. They decided to create a more formal society in order to collect geographical knowledge from around the world and disseminate that knowledge to those who were interested. The archive began as people returned from their expeditions and donated objects from around the globe.

The archive is mostly made up of cultural items, scientific instruments, and belongings of explorers. The archive is also focused on a few main areas: Africa, the Polar regions, and the Central Asia. The RGS has funded expeditions to climb Mount Everest and to discover the origins of the Nile! Currently, the archive and library hold over two million items, including: more than one million maps, half a million images, numerous globes, 250,000 volumes, correspondences, planning documents, and a special collection on individuals and instruments.

The best part of the visit was hearing the stories Eugene told about the explorers. We learned all about David Livingstone, Richard Burton, George Mallory, and more. We got to see Dr. Livingston’s hat and George Mallory’s boot plus many more interesting artifacts!

Mallory’s Boot, Maps, and a Geographical Instrument


Déjà Conservation Studio

For our very last class we headed back to the Conservation Studio at the British Library. Our second tour was much more management focused and we learned a lot about how items are brought into the Conservation Studio and how they are protected.

The studio has a quarantine room for foreign items that may bring in bugs or other potentially harmful biological elements. The room utilizes low oxygen levels and freezers to kill off plants and bugs. They also have several strong rooms with low oxygen to prevent fires from spreading, rather than using damaging sprinkler systems (books/maps + water do not mix!). The studio also spends a lot of time maintaining a hospitable work environment for its materials. The building’s humidity level and temperature are constantly monitored, but management is looking into Greener alternatives than their currently costly and non-eco-friendly set-up. We also learned a lot about the Preservation Advisory Board which works to develop best practices to preserve materials. They also work to share this information and host training events.

There was a short tour of the studio again, and we learned that they make their own water, strive for minimum intervention, and binding correspondences helps to prevent theft yet still make the book functional.

British Library
Image via Wikimedia

Inner Temple Library

It’s our last week in London and we’re down to just three more library visits! Today we visited the Inner Temple Library.

Inner Temple Library

The Inner Temple Library is a private law library serving barristers, students, and the occasional researcher. Barristers need only pay a small one time fee of £120 while visitors pay a small daily fee to temporarily access the collection. The library is not open to the general public, but the librarian explained that somewhat regularly people from the Da Vinci Code tours will wander away from the tour and try to visit the library; a very unique security problem! The library has had some very famous members, including Ghandi and Bram Stoker!

The library has been around since at least 1503, but is probably much older. All of Britain’s barristers must join an Inn and barristers with a need for information on Commonwealth law join the Inner Temple Library. The building was bombed during World War II and was just reopened in 1958.  It currently holds 45,000 texts on-site, and 45,000 off-site. It also provides patrons with numerous legal databases as well as a daily blog of relevant news information. The catalog is online and available to browse off-site, but most of their resources are only accessible from the library building. The librarians have compiled a page of links, Access to Law, for those outside of London with free legal sites about laws, case studies, etc.

A small staff of 10 keeps this library running, providing information quickly for barristers on-the-go! The building was beautiful (as they all have been) and they let us go up to the library gallery and have a look around (sadly, no spiral staircase this time). My favorite part of the tour was seeing Edward VI’s document saying that Lady Jane Grey was the rightful heir to the throne rather than his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. The document is written in the king’s own hand and in English rather than the usual Latin.

National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology

National Museum of Ireland
Image via Wikimedia

I really loved the National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology. Somehow, being obsessed with archaeology my entire life, this was my first visit to a museum solely dedicated to archaeology. They had something for everyone, but they also had things that are specifically of interest to archaeologists.

My favorite part of the museum was the bog bodies. I had seen one at the British Museum previously. It was a bit disturbing, especially to see all these people loudly crowded around them and snapping photos. But the National Museum of Ireland did a phenomenal job of displaying them. It was still very heartbreaking to see them, but the exhibit displayed them with respect. Each body was encased in a circular wall that patrons had to descend into. Information about the person was located at the entrance to the room, so readers already had an idea of the person they were about to see. The plaques explained what their status probably was, how they likely died, and what their diet was shortly before their death. Once in the room, the bodies were held in glass cases and there was a small bench for visitors who wanted to stay longer. Bog bodies are such important finds for archaeologists and historians that they do attract many visitors (such as myself) and I was happy to see the thought that had gone into the exhibit design.

I also saw a recreated passage tomb, which was great because the next day I was headed to see the real thing outside of Dublin. There were also countless early Irish artifacts which were beautiful. And I even saw the only known book recovered from a bog!


Queen Victoria Did What!?!

Trinity College
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Saturday I hopped on another bus and visited Trinity College. It’s the oldest university in Ireland, and it just so happens to house the Book of Kells.

A short tour of the campus was given and our guide was great. He told us the history of the campus as well as a few of the renowned pranks that have occurred there. He even wore a silly little sleeveless scholarly robe which just added to the fun of the tour.

Then, I queued up for the Book of Kells exhibition which is housed in the Old Library. The Old Library was magnificently gorgeous. I was happy to see so many members of the general public where getting to see it.

Old Library Long Room
Image via Wikimedia

The Book of Kells exhibition was great. The rooms leading up to the book had giant pictures of different pages and details about the art work used for the lettering. The exhibit also focused on three other early texts. The rooms were broken up into a meandering pathway so that despite the number of people viewing the pieces, it didn’t seem too crowded or rushed. In all honesty, the exhibit design actually showed up the Book of Kells itself because you got to see so much of the book and with beautiful lighting.

The book was held in a dimly lit room and was very crowded and people pressed against the glass table that it was displayed in. As I waited, I kept wondering what was taking everyone so long. But as soon as I got my chance to see it I completely understood. The illuminated manuscript is done so beautifully and intricately that you just have to marvel at the time and skill that went into making it.

Book of Kells
Image via Wikimedia

The guide told an interesting story about the Book of Kells. He said that when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Ireland, they signed the Book of Kells! I thought surely this couldn’t be true, and after some internet sleuthing it appears to be half-true. They were invited to sign the modern flyleaf not the original text. Their signature page was taken out in 1953 when the book was rebound.

Chester Beatty Library

Chester Beatty Library
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Located just behind Dublin Castle, is the Chester Beatty Library. And its exhibition has rivaled everything I’ve seen in London. I lost track of time walking around their exhibit, “Arts of the Book,” and saw such beautiful pieces. It really was marvelous to just stumble upon this library behind the castle.

I wish I could remember everything they displayed, but my favorite piece was a Japanese scroll text of miners. The page was blank except where tunnels had been painted in with great pictorial descriptions of the miners jobs. The exhibition held countless priceless texts. Many of which were from the East, which is actually something we have not seen a lot of during the study abroad program. They had a video showing the process of making Koran from paper to binding decoration that was extremely interesting and attracted a small crowd in the exhibition room. I really can’t do the exhibit justice though, it actually ended up being my favorite exhibit of the whole trip. It’s only rival would be the British Library’s collection on display.

Here’s a little description from their website, I really wish I could have taken pictures of everything!

“Arts of the Book, a permanent exhibition of almost 600 objects from the Library’s collections displays books from the ancient world, including the world famous Chester Beatty Love Poems (c.1160 BC), Egyptian Books of the Dead and beautifully illuminated European manuscripts. One of the highlights is the display of Western book-bindings (5th-20th century) and Old Master prints. The exhibition also explores the richness of the Islamic manuscript tradition including illustrations and illuminations, calligraphy, and exquisite bindings from across the Middle East and India. Highlights from East Asia include one of the finest collections of Chinese jade books in the world, Japanese picture-scrolls depicting fables and legends, and deluxe woodblock prints. Audio-visual programmes complement the exhibition, helping the visitor to learn more about the arts of the book throughout the world.”

They have a lovely image gallery on their website, so be sure to check out a few of the amazing works they hold. They actually had a few more galleries that we didn’t have a chance to get too, so I hope to go back on my next trip to Ireland.

Beatrix Potter

Image via Wikimedia

On our second day in Scotland we hopped onto a bus, along with the children’s literature students, and headed to the Lake District (interestingly in England) to visit several Beatrix Potter sites. We visited The World of Beatrix Potter, her Hill Top Home, and heard a lecture by the president of the Beatrix Potter Society. I especially loved her home garden. It was clear to see where she got her inspiration for such lovely tales.